Sunday, February 20, 2011

[Weekly Whimsy] How To:

Make someone quit [whatever game you're playing]

[Welcome to Weekly Whimsy! A treatise on treatment, belaboring on behavior.]

"Stop, Don't Do It...." Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Relax

Being cliquish, or sticking with the “good buddies network” is a great way to alienate a new player.

I know that gamers as a rule are inherently less skilled in the social cues and aspects of human relationships. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why some of the smartest people I know have so little human compassion. Every single one of you gamers, geeks, nerds, dorks and otherwise socially outcast people has been left out, excluded or otherwise been given the cold shoulder by a group of peers. Being a stranger in a group of new people is hard enough. Being left out by the same people you share interests and hobbies with is a buzzkill and has a lot of fuel to make one quit entirely. 

Being “too” friendly can creep someone out and make them seriously consider never returning.
This seems almost contradictory to what I just talked about, but it’s essential to pay attention to personal boundaries and non-verbal communication. Additionally, if whatever it is you’re doing/saying/showing would make you uncomfortable if done/said/shown to a friend or relative, you’re going too far.
Endless questions, “let me tell you about my (X)”, immediate invitations to your home or hangout, and standing too close can be overpowering and are ways to make someone wish they’d never shown up at your club, store or game.

Attacking the system or the player is one of the very best ways to shove an active, interested gamer right into the burnout pile.

A metaphor, if you will:

You're trying to sell shoes. You know your shoes are excellent quality and offer a wide variety of colors and choices in styles. Because of the better quality and better choices, they're a bit more expensive. In trying to sell them, you wouldn't bash a competitor; or degrade the shopper's preferences for a style that's not your favorite. You (ideally) would extol the virtues of all the features and benefits of your shoes and bring the shopper to the idea that the shoes are perfect for them, without using sleazy tactics or bad sales tricks.

This seems like pretty straightforward, common knowledge- not hard to comprehend and even easier to accomplish in my book.

When it comes to gaming, somehow this self obvious knowledge becomes vacuous nonsense. In many cases, convincing a friend to try a game you like (ie, selling) turns into a rambling version of “make everything else sound terrible” or “you're doing it wrong”.

This is especially true when said friend is currently playing a similar but 'competitor' game. A prime example of this is Warhammer 40,000 vs. Warmachine. I've heard countless conversations between supposed friends turn into rants on why “your system stinks”, or “you're not a REAL player because you don't play X”.

This sort of argument does nothing to keep someone interested in the game you're playing.

Attacking the player's friends is another sure-fire way to send someone screaming from the game and into the woods.

True example time!

I’m talking about my BT. I don’t know (or understand) all the rules. A lot of you have been more than generous and have offered me encouragement, advice and some of you have just plain told me what to do. I’ve tried to take it in stride, and be a good listener.
The new FAQ comes out and suddenly there’s a bunch of NEW things for me to learn- and I am darn near ready to lose my mind. A couple of you basically told me “suck it up, buttercup- get confident and get good” and offered explanations on the things I didn’t understand. (This, admittedly, seems to be everything.)
One of the pieces of advice is from a regular commenter, but is admittedly a little less than standard for the meta in my area. Instead of saying “hey, I politely disagree”, there’s a comment from someone else that starts the closest thing to a fight I’ve seen on my blog.
Most people don't mind a mild disagreement, especially when you have evidence to back you up- but attacking someone's friends is a pretty easy way to push someone away from you or your game.

Typecasting and prejudicial behavior or tones are definite ways to kill someone's interest in your game.

Admittedly, I've seen this most with either very young players, or girls. The young players tend to get the 'dumbed down' version of things, or the 'munchkin' attitude. Girls get varying degrees and versions of typecasting or prejudice, but I've seen some of them on more than a few occasions.

Projecting your own fears, frustrations or fantasies onto someone else when they are new really causes them to double (and sometimes triple) check the validity of their desire to play your game. Telling a young person (in that condescending way) that a game might be “too complicated”, “very hard to understand” or acting as if they need hand-holding is only going to encourage them to leave.

As I've mentioned before, I've walked out of games where it was obvious that girls were not viewed as anything other than filler material, rather than whole, real people with desires and motives. If your attitude, tone or words make it clear you think of a new player as anything other than a person with a valid reason to hang with you, you're potentially causing the gamer community a loss.

Jokes, comics, colloquialisms and so on that engender or encourage any sort of stereotype around a new player are definitely suspect and can drive them away just as fast as an actual attitude.

Generally being a jerk will make new folks want to leave and never come back.

Hogging the spotlight. Being a know-it-all. Being rude. Teasing someone in a hurtful way. Not sharing. Not offering to help. Making outrageously snarky asides, using excess sarcasm or otherwise affecting airs of “Cooler than Jesus” will do nothing to keep someone in the game.
This is a hard balance to keep, because most of us want to appear ‘cool’ and impress the new guy- but jackwagons don’t keep folks at the table. Give a new person some time to get to know you before shining your overtly brilliant wit on them, and things will probably go a lot better for you. Additionally, you might find you’re a nicer person than you think.
Doing any of these is a way to encourage someone to walk away from gaming. More than one of these violations is probable to cause a mass exodus of the people you don’t know (yet) and potentially alienate the folks you do know.
Our hobby has enough of a stigma and a certain attitude about it. Don’t give any ammunition to those that would try to bring us down. It’s hard enough to gain new blood, to garner new talent, and to make new friends. Don’t make it harder by perpetrating these offenses, or risk losing some new pals.

Game on,



  1. Very good points. While its become less so, when I was first running Pathfinder there was very much a "protest" feel to some of the people supporting the game, and I tried very hard to promote what I liked about the game rather than to kvetch about 4E or what I didn't like about what WOTC might have done to one setting or another.

    If it can't stand on its own, then its going to fade rather quickly, and even if something isn't your preferred game, that doesn't mean it doesn't have its good points.

    In fact, I'm really glad that I've had the chance to play some Savage Worlds and 4E at the store, because I don't think it hurts at all to understand how other game systems handle different aspects of gaming.

    I agree that at times it is a bit daunting to enter a group where people already have an established relationship. Its very easy to feel like an outsider, and any time that that familiarity comes up in direct relationship to the game, it might throw up some hurdles.

    To be honest, coming to Armored Gopher to begin with was a bit daunting because at the time so many people at the store knew one another and were in one another's games, and starting a brand new game there and bringing in new players took a bit of emotional gearing up.

    I will touch on something, very briefly, that I normally don't get into much. When I'm gaming, I'm gaming, so I try to avoid too deep of a discussion of politics or religion, but at the same time, its that uncommon for people to make very pointed political or religious jokes.

    I'm not talking about "politicians are jerk" in general jokes or even "a rabbi, a priest, and a pastor walk into a bar" kind of jokes. I mean stuff that makes it very clear that the person making the comment has very little use for people that believe in X.

    Because I'm where I am to game, I usually just try to let it slide, but honestly, I try to never assume that everyone at the table has my same point of view, so I try not to denigrate any points of view that might not agree with my own.

  2. Nice post. It casn be a very daunting experince to enter anew game with new people. These are all things we should be aware of when playing in or running a game.


  3. "One of the pieces of advice is from a regular commenter, but is admittedly a little less than standard for the meta in my area. Instead of saying “hey, I politely disagree”, there’s a comment from someone else that starts the closest thing to a fight I’ve seen on my blog"

    Sorry Lo. I have a very strong feeling that incident involved Ian and I. My bad. :(

  4. Cliques are very much an issue where I live. However we've more than once closed ranks to remove someone that was ruining the game for the entire group. So as bad as cliques are, they can have their benefits too.

  5. Too true. We also have several cliques in our area. RPGers, historical gamers, Warhammer players, Magic players, etc. I seem to be one of few people who have been able to cross the boundaries and play with different groups.